Tommy’s Tips: Planning your DIY


I’m not gonna say that successful DIY is absolutely about careful planning, but let’s just say on a scale of 1-10 it rates about 9. In over 50 years of experience, I have seen a complete range of disaster DIY, from the simple mis-measure (as my dad always said “measure twice and cut only once!”)  to the unmitigated disaster ending in partial building collapse, with the potential to kill, albeit un-intentionally! 

Whenever the aftermath is discussed, during the DIY post mortem when everything has gone wrong, it nearly always, “with honest analysis” is inevitably caused by a simple lack of planning. Now I’m not saying unforeseen circumstances don’t play a part, but in every walk of life, a bit of simple planning should enable us to avoid the common pitfalls.

If you wake up early one Saturday morning, determined to get on and decorate the lounge that weekend, just take a “time out”, put the kettle on, make a nice cup of tea, sit down with a pen and pad, and write down what you want to achieve, carefully measure and quantify the materials required, also make a list of the tools you will need, then spend an hour on line and on the phone, comparing prices, don’t be shy to ask for discounts, play one supplier against the other! You will often find the best deals, are offered at builders merchants, or specific specialist suppliers, rather than the big DIY stores. Which quite often are the most expensive!

Set yourself an achievable time-table, firstly assemble materials and tools, and are you just painting over the existing? If so, covering everything with dust sheets should suffice, all ornaments etc should be carefully packed away, but if you mean to strip the wall paper, or carry out plaster repairs, it may be a better option to roll up and remove the carpets and underlay, for re-fitting afterwards! The easy part of re- decoration is actually applying the paint, but all the filling and rubbing down should be carried out and completed first.  This is what determines the quality of the finish, to quote my dad “the quality of the finish, is only as good, as the preparation that goes into it!” When ceilings walls and wood work have been filled and rubbed down, vacuum all the dust, wipe down walls with a damp cloth, and wipe over the woodwork with a white spirit laden cloth in preparation for painting. Any new or bare timber, should have knotting fluid, then primer applied before the two undercoats and one top coat, with a very gentle, very fine rub down between coatings, wiped over removing any residue, with a white spirit laden cloth between applications.  I always recommend an eggshell finish, especially on older wood work as it will show up imperfection much less than gloss, and my personal preference and that of most tradesmen is to recommend oil based paint for woodwork, rather than water based, if you want a classy hardwearing finish!

Always try to carry out DIY tasks during daylight hours, when decorating, allow to finish the day at a sensible hour, allowing plenty of time to clear up and pack away tools and materials.  Relax in the evening, maybe go out to eat, go to bed early, and be fighting fit, at the crack of dawn the next morning, to quote my dad “the hours between 7am and midday, are twice as productive as the hours between midday and 5!”  Remember to include all the necessary health and safety equipment on your list, at least the basic’s of safety glasses, dust masks and gloves are essential, and always practice with new materials, tools, or methods BEFORE using them on your home! Finally speak to your neighbours, explain that you’ll be doing DIY work on your home, and you will try to keep the noise to a minimum, and won’t make loads of noise or mess at unreasonable hours!


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